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Who Came Round Your Doors?

Who Came Round Your Doors?

Who came round your doors? If berets, Gaulloise, Gitanes and pedal bikes stir memories for you, this post from David Wardell is a must read. Who Came Round Your Doors brings evocative reminiscences of the old ways and what seem like simpler times. Who do you remember from this list?

  • The Pools Man
  • The Salvation Army
  • The Poppy Sellers
  • The French Onion Man
  • The Gypsy Woman
  • The Tinker
  • The Bin Man

This article is the second in this series and follow on from David’s post Who Was Round Your Street.

There were many collectors for the pools, insurance and ‘Tally’ companies who all collected regular and often weekly payments to ease the cost for their clientele. Remember Littlewoods, Vernons and Zetters pools, purveyors of much hope for those who did them, but hope led to dismay each week as a win was seldom seen locally , just like with the Lottery today. The big win amount that was dangled in the adverts was then a vast £75,000 on Littlewoods but I recall my father being highly exhilarated having cleared a ‘huge win’  of 13s 4d . It only happened once over numerous years but at least the hope was there for him. 

There were also all the charity organisations collecting for their respective flag days or perhaps leaving their little collection envelopes hoping they would be filled with more than a few  buttons..  The Salvation Army collector was a common visitor.

Sometimes we would get a knock on the door from the Jehovah’s Witnesses trying to make a doorstep conversion and offering copies of the Watch Tower and other religious tracts.  The run up to Remembrance Sunday always brought out the familiar poppy sellers. 

The French Onion Seller

The French onion man was another iconic sight in the 50’s and 60’s.  Clad in his signature beret, riding a bicycle laden with strings of  onions and sometimes some smaller strings of garlic, he was a common sight . Often known as French Onion Johnnies, (so many were named Jean – French for John) They arrived in England in the summer to peddle their onions round our British doorsteps coming here from Brittany in northern France renowned for it’s  special pink tinged onions which had a sweetish taste and a long storage life . They would travel door to door from July to December, then returning home to Brittany. 

Our Onion man , a regular for several years and naturally named ‘Jean’ , would come in to our house when he called to speak with my Mother, who was disabled and couldn’t make it to the front door. He was a fairly short stocky man wearing jeans with cycle clips at the bottom of each leg and a leather blouson type of jacket which had seen many seasons of use.  He possessed slightly thickened lips which would be accentuated by his French pronunciation of his words.

A very kindly man he would happily stand and talk to my Mother for some time and would tell how he and his wife came over from France each year with a large load of onions which they stored in one room of their rented accommodation.

There they would sit in the evenings and tie the onions together forming the familiar strings. He said that they had special areas at home in France where they would regularly go and cut the reeds which formed the basis of each string which was then bound with raffia. They only had one other room within which they slept and lived.

An invitation to go over to France and stay with his family was sometimes made by him but was never taken up as I was still quite young.  Shortly before they had sold all their onions another shipment would arrive from France and every day except Sunday they would trek out, in all weathers, to sell their onions, often with one of the familiar rather smelly French Gaulloise or Gitane cigarettes dangling from their lips.

The District Nurse

Sometimes the district nurse and/or midwife would be seen making her calls,  many of them at that time still dependent on their bicycles ,  she would be out in all weathers.  Hardy souls who cared for much of the public’s medical needs supported of course by the family doctor who was never reluctant to make house calls at all hours and had never even heard of Zoom and WhatsApp Video calling to deal with his patients.

Once in a while a gypsy woman might show up, offering small sprigs of ‘lucky’ white heather and clothes pegs for sale . It was thought to be unlucky to refuse to buy from her , however we didn’t usually succumb. 

Hot on her heels might follow a gypsy ‘tinker’ offering to mend our pans and sometimes we would also see the nomadic knife grinder with his sharpening stone mounted on a single bicycle wheel. He would take our knives out to the street to sharpen them treadling away furiously at his wheel but I’m not convinced that they were any better when he had finished with them.

The Bin Men

We were all dependent on the regular weekly collections by the bin men. 

( Waste management Operatives  …..for our younger readers)  They came in all weathers often bearing a leather patch on their shoulders where they hefted the heavy metal dustbins. No wheelie bins in those days. Their bin wagon passed by our back doors and the men would enter the back yards and take out the bins and any extra refuse set beside them.  

No fussy regulations then about having to place a bin at the kerbside and with the lid down flat, and a refusal to take items that were not in the bins. They also managed to return the bins unlike today where they are left scattered across the roads, commonly some distance away from where they were collected from.

They even managed to do some recycling, having an open caged trailer behind the bin wagon for ‘salvage’ as waste papers and cardboard were then termed. I understood that it helped towards the Xmas bonus for the bin men but have no evidence of such.  Our bin men would all crowd in to our back yard and stand in the covered area by the back door, controlled by the driver who was the boss of the gang,  as Mother would ply them with cups of tea and a biscuit. It was always a good idea to keep your bin men happy.


Who Was Round Your Street?

  • The Coal Man
  • The Rag and Bone Man
  • The Pop Man
  • The Milk Man
  • The Paper Boy
  • The Post man
  • The Lamp Man
  • The Laundry Man
  • The Ringtons Tea Man
  • The Fruit and Veg Man

Catch up with these characters in David’s post Who Was Round Your Street?


1921 Census

Christmas Commissions

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How Do I Research The History of My House?

House Histories Discovering Heritage House History Pack contents

Discovering Heritage can help you research the history of your house.

We have put together a case study on one of our recent house history commissions. In the following post we describe the processes and some of the resources we use in our research. We will take you through our work from our clients instruction to the final production of our bespoke house history pack.

Client Request

We were asked to research the history of a house in Gosforth. Our client was particularly interested in the answers to three questions.

When was the house built?

When was the house built in relation to the rest of the street?

Who lived in the house and when?

Our Approach to the House History

We find it is always best to work with our clients on a personal level.  With this in mind, we arranged a house visit. House visits usually take about 1 hour. During our visit, we discussed our client’s request and what they might expect from our research. We showed examples of original building plans on properties we had previously researched. The client didn’t have the original property deeds – they don’t appear to have survived. However we had a look at the remaining paperwork relating to the property and this did provide a couple of clues.

We followed our house visit with an email confirming our arrangement and then began our research. Our client had chosen the Genuine Article House History package which bought 5 hours of research presented in one of our specially designed house history packs. 

How Do We Research A House Or Property History?

We began by locating the property on historic Ordnance Survey maps. The purpose of this was to provide the client with a visual guide to the development of the street and it also helped us narrow down the date that the property was built.


Portion of 1st and 2nd edition Ordnance Survey Maps
1st and 2nd edition Ordnance Survey Map portions

We then made a search of Local Authority planning registers and found reference to the original planning application. We then looked at the planning file. This included the original coloured building plan confirming the date of application, the architect, the name of the person submitting the application and the original proposed layout of the property.  


We followed this by looking at sources that told us about the owners or occupiers of the property. The sources that we looked at included census returns, directories, electoral registers, newspapers, rate books and records of birth, marriage and death. This research allowed us to make a list of all of the owners/occupiers and write a potted history of the property.

1901 census in House History pack
1901 census
1911 census in Discovering Heritage House History pack
1911 census

The Next Stage

We prepared photographic evidence of our findings where possible. Once we completed the 5-hour research block, we brought all the information together and sent it off to our graphic designer.


Graphic Design

Graphic design and printing is the final part of the process. Our graphic designer formatted our research and checked the quality of our photographic reproductions. Using skills in the Adobe Creative Cloud software, along with an eye for detail and aesthetics, our designer comes up with creative solutions to layout our research in a simple yet engaging way.

Our designer designs the house pictures and cards for our 3 and 4 star packages, she also added a special touch with a bespoke timeline of residents for our client’s house. We included this as an A3 sized pull out in our pack.


Cover page
Resident timeline

This is a list of what was included in a typical pack

Cover pages printed with clients name house number and street

Written detailed house chronology

Specially designed A3 timeline of residents (extra copies available for framing) unique to the property

Photographs of 1901 & 1911 census and 1939 register entries to back up our research

Photographs of 1st 2nd & 3rd editions of OS map portions showing the street development

An early photograph of the street c1918

Notes for further research options


The Final Stage

We brought our research together with our graphic designer/interpreter to produce a unique history pack for our client . Our House History pack was delivered.

Front doorstep with Discovering Heritage House History pack by the door.
Special delivery
Client with Discovering Heriathe house history pack
Our happy client

How Much Does It Cost?

While you are here why not pay a visit to our Little Histories Shop to view our full range of bespoke products inspired by our love of the archives? We know you’ll love it!


  • Newspaper highlight May 12 1888
  • Discovering Heritage House History Folio photograph. ©Discovering Heritage
  • My Scottish Townhouse Story A3 poster photo ©Discovering Heritage
  • Discovering Heritage Town House Portrait
  • Little House History Discovering Heritage
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Just Another Century

Just Another Century

It has been surprising and enjoyable how many connections we have made since starting Discovering Heritage. But none more surprising than when Maria Harland posted on Gosforth Photos Videos and Chat Facebook Page that she remembered our team member, Fiona Malkin (nee Harland), from school. 

First, the coincidence in the surname is remarkable.

Second, Maria has just written a book, Just Another Century which follows her family story around Jesmond and Gosforth. Another extraordinary coincidence given our association with House and Family Histories!

Third, a little while ago, we wrote an article entitled The Changing Face Of Gosforth in which we documented the story of the Gosforth Traders premises at 151 -153 Salters Road. 

153 Salters Road

“At this point, the status quo remained until the middle of the war years. In 1916 Mrs Moore’s Confectionery left, and J O’Dowd Confectioner moved in at 153 Salters Road. O’Dowd confectioners appear to have come from Simonside View. They stayed until 1924/5 when another business from Simonside View moved in, namely, T S Dewell keeping the same trade in confectionery.”

As it happens, J O’Dowd confectioner and T S Dewell feature in Maria’s book!!!

Coffee and Catch Up

Of Course, we arranged to meet Maria for coffee in Gosforth Traders (where else?). We chatted over more than one cup of coffee, and the upshot is that Maria has very kindly agreed to share an excerpt from her book on the Discovering Heritage blog!


Just Another Century

Initially the author Maria Harland set out to just randomly jot down the stories she fondly remembered growing up hearing throughout her childhood. The idea to formulate these stories into a book only came about when the author was searching for a plotline for her second novel and realised the stories were all there already under the guise of her family history. The book is essentially a love story to her ancestors. Starting in 1875 the plot revolves around a Victorian house in Jesmond. The story sweeps the reader across continents as it charts the lives and loves of the O’Dowd and Le Britton dynasties. A great majority of the book is set in both Jesmond and Gosforth so gives the reader a valuable insight into the two villages in the pre and post war years. It culminates in a beguiling romance which joins the two families forever and proves beyond any doubt that true love will always prevail. 

Below is an excerpt from the book which tells the story of Hedleys Bakers and Confectioners which stood on Kelly’s Corner, Salters Road. It was owned by the O’Dowds in the early 1920s – Hedley was Theresa O’Dowds maiden name – until the family emigrated to Vancouver Island in 1924 when ownership transferred to the Dewell family (Theresa’s sister and her husband who lived on Elmfield Road). The young boy in the photograph is Lewis O’Dowd who is the author’s grandfather.

Signed Copies Direct From The Author

The book can be purchased from Amazon for £8.99 or directly from the author (harland_lisa@yahoo.co.uk) who will personally sign all copies for £12.99 including postage in the UK. An ideal and unique Christmas present for anyone who has an interest in local history.


APRIL 1915, BAYSWATER ROAD, O’DOWD FAMILY

The O’Dowds were still living in the Tyneside flat on Bayswater Road. Initially, both Theresa and John had assumed the living quarters would be too squashed – especially with three still quite young children – but in no time at all they had become accustomed to the lack of space and were actually enjoying the quality family time such close proximity afforded them. My grandfather Lewis had just turned nine years old; his brother John junior was nearly seven, and baby Dolly – whose untimely conception had stopped the family perishing on the Titanic – was almost three.

The war had impacted on all walks of life and the O’Dowds were to prove no exception although saying this their new bakery venture, Hedleys, was just about managing to stay afloat and had even registered a small profit. Theresa’s sugar crafting skills were beneficial in keeping the wolf from the door, for despite many wedding cakes being nothing more than hollow cardboard shapes, they still benefitted from decorative icing. When a bride insisted on an actual cake John had perfected the recipe for the aptly named ‘Trench Cake’. This popular wartime cake had no eggs in the recipe instead using vinegar to achieve the necessary rise but it still needed dried fruit and this was getting scarcer by the day. John was gaining a great reputation as a Master Baker and at weekends his two sons would help him in the bakery and then go around the local streets delivering baked goods in a handcart. This was no easy task and the boys would frequently stop to argue over whose turn it was to push because the handcart was so difficult to manoeuvre, especially around corners and up inclines.

The boys also constantly complained about their schooling, because since West Jesmond School had been taken over by the Military; both boys had quite a long walk along Osborne Road to neighbouring Sandyford and the school there. They developed a habit of dawdling so their timekeeping was problematic.

The lateness also frequently resulted in their teachers administering the strap as a punishment. One would think that being aware of the corporal punishment which would inevitably be metered out, the boys would hurry but it seemed they had good reason to tarry. John would hop onto Lewis shoulders and they would stop to ‘scrump’ apples from overhanging trees in a garden on Lily Crescent. Once they had collected a dozen or so they would gather up the apples in their school sweaters then sell them on to their classmates at school.

Despite their hands  often still smarting from the strap, the pleasure of walking home then stopping in the grocery store on Brentwood Avenue to purchase a quarter of sweets made the pain worthwhile. Both boys had inherited a sweet tooth from their father. Lemon Sherbets and Pear Drops were the boy’s particular favourites although it was always risky sucking on a Pear Drop just before going home as the boiled sweets had a very particular aroma and more than once their mother had sniffed the air and questioned the distinctive smell.


Get Your Signed Copy of Just Another Century

The book can be purchased from Amazon for £8.99 or directly from the author (harland_lisa@yahoo.co.uk) who will personally sign all copies for £12.99 including postage in the UK. An ideal and unique Christmas present for anyone who has an interest in local history.



Just Another Century

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  • Newspaper highlight May 12 1888
  • Discovering Heritage House History Folio photograph. ©Discovering Heritage
  • My Scottish Townhouse Story A3 poster photo ©Discovering Heritage
  • Discovering Heritage Town House Portrait
  • Little House History Discovering Heritage

Authors In The Spotlight

Maria shares the spotlight with Jack Harland (no relation as far as we know) and Ian Lennox, check them out below!

Lost Streets Of Gosforth
"In the first years of the post-war there was a terrible housing …
Life In A Colliery House In Coxlodge
I was born in the unheated bedroom of a one up, one …
Ian Lennox Gosforth Author Spotlight!
It is one of the most intriguing notions when we research a …

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Lost Streets Of Gosforth

Photo f Jack Hartland as a young boy on Ash Street in Gosforth

Jack Harland with his best friend in 1950s Ash Street Gosforth.

We are pleased to be able to share our second guest post from Jack Harland. Jack gives us a beautifully evocative account of his early years living in one of the lost streets of Gosforth. Ash Street backed on to the colliery railway and lay in the general area of the Gosforth Civic Theatre. We believe the supermarket Jack refers to is at 1 Henry Street, the business currently trading from the premises is Alpha Male Grooming. This post follows on from The Trap – The Social Heart Of Coxlodge

Ash Street Early 1950s

Guest Post by Author Jack P Harland

In the first years of the post-war period there was a terrible housing shortage in the United Kingdom.  My father had left the Navy and my parents found a terraced house to rent in Ash Street, Gosforth. Its walls were of soot-blackened brick that was starting to crumble, there was no electricity, bathroom or inside lavatory, but they were lucky to get it.  Like my Grandma’s house in West Street, it was lit by gas mantles and heated by a single coal fire in the sitting room. I spent a lot of time at my Grandma’s house and, humble as it was, it seemed well-furnished and homely compared to Ash Street. My parents were starting from scratch, had nothing and living conditions in their tiny first home were Spartan.


Children and dogs were put out onto the street and allowed to roam in the 1950s.  I was a difficult boy to keep indoors and as soon as I could walk was exploring my local patch.  In summer I was put out in bare feet, (“It’s good for you,” said my mother) and remember the smooth feel of the cobble stones.  My best friend was the girl I’m with in the photo and I went straight to her door in the morning to enquire as to whether she was, “Coming out to play?”

The Crisp Factory


A favourite place was the crisp factory.  There were big doors for lorries on one side and steps up to a side door on another.  We would sit on these steps waiting for the men in overalls to open the door. Lovely cooking smells wafted out and big, hard-working hands reached down to tousle our hair.  We were given a paper bag of crisps to share, with a twist of salt in a little piece of blue, greaseproof paper. They were no ordinary crisps, being either too thickly cut or too well-cooked, but perfect for two growing children who spent their days in the fresh air.


A mutual friend came from a very poor family.  Her clothes were ill-fitting and scruffy, her hair unbrushed and she always needed a good bath.  She would call at our door and my mother would find something for her to eat. In the evening Mam told me that she felt sorry for her while combing my hair with the nit comb, “Just in case.”  This little girl was infected with various parasites and on one memorable occasion needed to sit on the lavatory but couldn’t reach it. A white enamel pail with a blue rim was used instead and we were both thrilled to see the seething mass of worms in the bottom.

Coxlodge Colliery Railway

The colliery railway ran just at the back of our house and the steam engines stopped there regularly.  I loved everything about them; the chuff, chuff noise as they moved; the unpredictable hissing, accompanied by urgent clouds of steam; the black smoke that puffed from the smoke stack and the glimpsed drivers, hunched over a red glow in the cabin.  When very young, my mother would lift me up beside the line to see this marvel and the driver and fireman would stop for some banter.  My mother had been a pin-up for the RAF and worked as a model in Fenwick’s so it’s easy to understand why the colliery engines stopped there.  On one miraculous, never-forgotten occasion the crew asked if, “the laddie would like a ride to the pit and back?” Big, black arms reached across for me and I was pushed into the warm cabin of the engine.  What an experience that was. I remember the clanking noises, the searing heat when the fire door was opened, the pulling of big levers polished with use and the acrid smell of the coal. I was allowed to pull the hooter when, its trucks full of coal, the engine got back to Ash Street.

2nd Edition OS map c 1919



On a more prosaic note, I was never much interested in my bowl of Cornflakes at breakfast but I was more than excited by the plastic toy figures found in every packet at that time.  There was a picture of the whole set on the back of the packet and I stared at them, transfixed. Sets included medieval knights and Robin Hood and his Merry Men. When a new packet was opened I was allowed to rummage among the flakes until my little fingers found my treasure.  

On one fateful occasion I had most of a set but the last figure eluded me. I thought it an injustice that the one that I had just found I already had. I was disappointed and determined to do something about it. My territory was not a big one and the shop where the Cornflakes were bought had only been visited with my mother, but I knew where it was.  It was an early supermarket, tiny by today’s standards but novel at the time. I think it was on the corner of the road and Henry Street (but it was so long ago and so much has changed). I left the house as usual and marched straight to the shop, went to the Cornflakes, reached up for a packet and marched out. On the street there was a shout, I was pursued and overtaken by one of the shop ladies and was taken home to face a terribly embarrassed mother.  She paid for that box and I was left in no doubt that I was never to try anything like that again. When the heat had died down I made the mistake of asking if I could extract the figure. It was a long time before I saw that particular member of Robin Hood’s band.

From Ash Street to Jubilee Road


My time in Ash Street was brief, just a few short years, but it has left some sharp memories.  The memories have been filled out by stories passed down in the family, like the ride on the colliery train and the time I was the youngest thief in the North-east.  My brother was born and we were re-housed in a council flat in Jubilee Road. I have many more memories of that time in the later 1950s but those of Ash Street are precious.  Not long after we left the street and the area around was demolished, so readers scratching their heads over where it is will never find it! On my recent return visits I find offices, new roads, a leisure centre, a theatre and a Metro station, somewhere among these buildings are the ghosts of Ash Street and its people. ©Jack Harland

Jack P Harland

Jack Harland grew up in Coxlodge in the 50s and 60s. He was born in an upstairs bedroom of a colliery house on West Street, (now Kenton Road) in the middle of a snowstorm. In later years Jack’s career took him north to Scotland where he developed a love of hillwalking and mountain climbing. This love of the outdoors led to the publication of his three books, beginning with Highland Journal – The Making Of A Hillwalker Highland Journal series brings together Jack’s skills as an artist and writer. We are delighted to have been able to share Jack’s memories with you on the Discovering Heritage blog.

Discover More Lost Streets Of Gosforth With Our FREE Map Download



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Gosforth World War II

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Matthew Bank after the bombing raid. Skyscrapercity

Gosforth in World War II tells two stories of local people and their very different experiences during the second World War.

The Discovering Heritage blog is three years old this week! Our post a little while ago told the story of Gosforth resident Robert Whitfield Falconer who died in the first World War and bequeathed monies for two bells in All Saints Church on West Avenue. In this post we share Gosforth stories of WWII.

Frank Bell of Gosforth High Street

Gosforth World WarII
Trooper Frank Bell

In July 1940 the Evening Chronicle carried the story of 20 year old Frank Bell. Frank was a Trooper on board the British internment liner Arandora Star. The vessel was torpedoed by a German U boat of the west coast of Ireland. Frank was a military guard. He was detailed to guard German and Italian internees and also prisoners of war who were on their way to Canada. When the liner was torpedoed Frank jumped overboard. He managed to grab onto some derbris floating in the water.

“I later managed to get onto some debris – cans – and wood – where for nine hours two Germans three Italians three soldiers and I stayed until we were picked up by the rescue ship.”

Frank Bell
Gosforth World War II
Pre War image of Arandrora Star

Before the outbreak of war Frank Bell worked as a clerk in Lloyds shipping office in Newcastle. He lived at 127 High Street Gosforth and was also in the Territorial Army.

The Arandrora Star went down with the loss of over 800 lives. It took just one torpedo which caused her to sink in just over half an hour. The ship was previously a Troop ship. Many people feel that the lack of Red Cross markings on her side may have contributed to this tragedy as she may not have been recognised correctly.

Air Raids Over Newcastle

During 1941, the German Air Fleet 3 carried out night-time raids on urban UK targets. In August poor weather meant that no air raids could be carried out on Britain for 25 days during that month. In September, the German’s turned their primary attention to mining.

Gosforth World War II German bomber

1000 People Left Homeless

However, a raid on 1 September 1941, caused major damage at the New Bridge Street Goods Station in Newcastle resulting in a fire which burned for several days. During this raid, fifty people we killed, 71 seriously injured, and over 1000 people were left homeless. Also in September 1941, a bomb fell on a quayside warehouse. Reportedly the mass of syrup, flour, fat and sugar that resulted attracted swarms of flies. The multitudes of flies were so thick that people had to drink their tea through straws and keep their cups covered to stay free of contamination.

Matthew Bank Gosforth

In December 1941 small bombing raids were targeted on Newcastle, Plymouth and Hull. On 29 December it was reported that a widespread fog lay over Tyneside. Even so, fifty-five enemy aircraft carried out a bombing raid dropping ten High Explosives most of them in the Matthew Bank area of Gosforth

Newton Shipley

According to an eyewitness report given in 1991, seven people died, and a number were seriously injured. Some houses took direct hits. A young boy called Newton Shipley had to be rescued from one of them. He was found hanging upside down by his foot. Reports say that during the rescue, his foot was amputated to free him. Newton Shipley made a full recovery and was awarded the Scouts VC badge for bravery. (I can remember my father telling me this story on more than one occasion).

The Wolf Cub Spirit

News papers as far away as Coventry published the story – transcript as follows.

An eight years old boy named Newton Shipley had his home bombed during a night-time raid in Newcastle-on-Tyne. A warden found him in the debris, hanging head downwards, and apparently dead.

Having freed him the warden held him in his arms. Newton’s eyes opened and he smiled.

“You’re a very brave boy aren’t you” said the warden. “Of course, don’t you know I’m a Wolf Cub.” replied Newton.

Both the boys legs were broken, and one had to be amputated. The story is told by the Boy Scouts Association.

Coventry Evening Telegraph Tuesday February 10th 1942

In Matthew Bank the houses numbered 35-45, 6 homes in all were demolished. House numbers 1-3 and 47-51 (5 houses ) were damaged.



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Murder Mayhem and Gosforth

Ahad Tandooris Gosforth

Gosforth residents may be unaware of the tragic story our Murder Mayhem and Gosforth post is about to uncover. Many residents will no doubt have partaken of the custom of a drink in the County Hotel followed by a curry at the Ahad Tandoori restaurant. However, what they might not have realised is that in 1861 a man called Mark Frater lived in the “first house north of the County Hotel.” (Richard Welford). We believe the Ahad restaurant may have adjoined this house at this time. Old maps show a row of houses labelled Gosforth Villas (built 1836 – 1860) extending along the southern end of Gosforth High Street with one of these villas extending very close to the private residence which later changed to the County Hotel.

1st edition OS map Bulman Village
ND [c.1860] Early map showing plot of County Hotel, and the first house to the north.

Mark Frater

Mark Frater established an omnibus service between Gosforth and Newcastle in 1857. The omnibus regularly ran from Bulman village to the Monument and carried passengers. This service predated the tramway. A newspaper article states that Mr Frater was born in Rothbury and had worked in Newcastle for many years. He had a number of jobs including a position of office clerk for the Newcastle Chronicle before taking a job as a tax collector. Mr Frater lived in Bulman Village, had been married twice and had one daughter by his first wife and two sons by his second. It was in his job as a tax collector that he made his unfortunate association with George Clark.

George Clark

George Clark was a cabinet maker who lived with his dog in a squalid house situated in St Nicholas Church Yard in Newcastle. Newspaper reports state that Mr Clark had been asked to pay taxes of 12s a year for his dog and that after many years of paying this tax he became unwilling to continue. Clark’s dissatisfaction with this situation became a regular topic of conversation with his fellow workmen. George Clark delayed payment repeatedly. Eventually, because payment was not received goods were taken from his house and sold to pay the debt.

Murder Mayhem and Gosforth

Murder Mayhem and Gosforth Newspaer cutiing
Newcastle Courant Friday 4 October 1861

“On Tuesday morning this town became the scene of one of the most dastardly murders of which the annals of crime bear record.”

On Tuesday 1 October 1861, Mr Frater took the omnibus from his home in Bulman village to the Monument in Newcastle. Between nine thirty and ten in the morning, he arrived at the bottom of Northumberland Street. He only had a few paces to walk to his office which was on Blackett street. It is reported that Clark had been ” lurking about the neighbourhood during the morning.” The following quote appeared in an article printed on Friday 4 October in the Newcastle Courant.

” Mr Frater stopped to talk to an acquaintance for a few minutes on the top step outside his office building. It was here the George Clark approached from behind and

” with a knife which he drew from his pocket, struck Mr Frater immediately under the right jaw bone; slightly grazing it, and then descending obliquely into the neck, severing the principal arteries. The stab well aimed as it was, was assisted in its deadly effects by the wrench with which the murderer gave the weapon while it was yet in the wound, with such violence as to bend the knife.”

1861 newspaper snip Mark Frater murder Gosforth
Newcastle Courant October 4 1861

Mark Frater died 15 minutes later. George Clark was taken to Prudhoe-street police station and given into the custody of acting sergeant Anderson. George Clark was then cautioned and charged with the stabbing.

Gosforth rewsident Mark Frater murder
Newcastle Courant October 4 1861

The Blackett Street Murder

This incident became known as The Blackett Street Murder. Mr Richard Welford in his book A History of the parish of Gosforth, in the county of Northumberland states …

” Mr Frater was assassinated on the 1st of October, 1861, and Gosforth lost a promising and enterprising resident.”

George Clark was brought to trial in early 1862. He was found guilty of the murder of Mark Frater  and sentenced to be hanged in a place of execution following which his body was to be buried within the walls of Newcastle jail.


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Family History Research

Robert Whitfiled Falconer Gosforth resident

Portrait of Robert Whitfield Falconer (1885-1916).

Family History Research

Family History research is a fascinating topic. We are a team of specialist historical researchers with expertise in researching family history. We present our research in bespoke illustrated, recycled card folders with individual pages so you can build your family history in small steps. Discovering Heritage also produces individually designed family trees and individual ancestor profiles.

Family History Appraisal

We have been researching the story of Robert Whitfield Falconer who lost his life in France in the First World War. This family history research arose through our interest in our local community, the suburb of Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne. Although not strictly a piece of family history research this appraisal demonstrates the volume and detail of information that can be discovered about a family member within a relatively short period of time. Robert’s memory lives on through his generous posthumous gift of two bells to Gosforth All Saints Parish Church.

Read Robert’s Story Here.

Visitors to All Saints church in Gosforth may notice a memorial plaque that reads

‘To The Glory of God and in the memory of Lieut. Robert Whitfield Falconer, 16th Northumberland Fusiliers, one of the original bellringers of this church who fell at Thiepval, France, 1 July 1916, aged 31 years. In his will, he made provision for two new bells to be added to the existing peal in the tower’.

Family History Research

Contemporary photograph of All Saints Parish Church, Gosforth, Newcastle upon Tyne.

The Family History of Robert Whitfield Falconer

The family history of Robert Falconer is not widely known. Robert Whitfield Falconer was born in Gosforth and baptised at St. Nicholas church on 29 March 1885. He was the son of James William, a clerk, and Isabella Falconer. The family had strong links to St. Nicholas Church which at the time of Robert’s baptism was the only Anglican church in Gosforth. Robert’s parents James William Falconer and Isabella Nixon were married there in 1884. At the time of Robert’s baptism, the family were living at 29 High Street, Gosforth.

 

In 1890 there was an addition to the family with the birth of Robert’s sister, Mary Isabella. By 1891 the family were living at 38 Ivy Road, Gosforth with a female live-in servant. When tracking the family through the census we found, by 1901 the family had moved to 4 Linden Terrace, Gosforth, (a misrecording of Linden Road), again sharing their home with a female servant.

By 1911 they had moved to 22 Linden Road. In both the 1901 and 1911 census James Falconer’s occupation is recorded as a shipbroker. A shipbroker is an intermediary between the owner of a ship and a client who wishes to have goods carried by sea. Robert’s occupation was noted as a shipbroker’s clerk. James is recorded as a clerk in a number of trade directories.

Directories

Directories are regularly produced printed lists of businesses and residents produced on a countywide basis. Using trade directories it has been possible to discover something about James’ employment history. His place of employment throughout the 1890s was J.G. Charlton & Company, shipbrokers, of Cails Buildings, Newcastle. The first reference to his own shipbroking business, Falconer, Ross & Company based in Sandhill, Newcastle, can be found in Ward’s Directory of 1906.

Family History Research

1911 census returns showing Robert Falconer, his parents, James and Isabella, and sister, Mary, living at 22 Linden Road, Gosforth.

The New Parish Of Gosforth

The new parish of Gosforth All Saints was established in 1906 and the Falconer family appear to have worshipped there from that point. James William Falconer, Robert’s father, served as a member of the parish vestry from 1906-1917. For some of this time he served as People’s Warden. Robert Falconer was a keen bell-ringer.

The All Saints parish magazines include numerous references to bellringing including some specific references to Robert. As an example, an article of August 1913 records a quarter-peal of triple bells being rung to mark the departure of one of the ringers. Mr A.M.C. Field, was leaving for South America. It records Robert as one of the ringers. Robert was an active bell ringer.

We know from the Annual Report of Durham and Newcastle Association of Change Ringers that in 1913 he rang at churches in Gateshead and Whitley Bay as well as Gosforth.

Northumberland Fusiliers

The memorial plaque in All Saints Church records that Robert Falconer served in the 16th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. The Battalion was raised in Newcastle in September 1914 by the Gateshead and Newcastle Chamber of Commerce. It is likely that Robert served with friends and professional colleagues.

This Battalion was one of twelve Pals Battalions raised by the Northumberland Fusiliers. Pals battalions were made up of groups of colleagues, friends and neighbours many of whom were acquainted with each other. The already close relationships that existed amongst the recruits was believed to increase camaraderie.

The downside of this form of recruitment was that when large-scale losses began to take place the male population of some families and communities were decimated. In November 1915 the Battalion began service in France. Robert Falconer lost his life on 1 July 1916, the first day of the Battle of The Somme. Five fellow officers also lost their lives with over three hundred and fifty men.

Last Will And Testament

On 3 September 1915, just two months before the 16th Battalion began their service in France, Robert signed his will. The executors were his father and John Frederick Bird, a friend and fellow bell-ringer. The beneficiaries of the will were the two executors, John Bird’s infant son and Robert’s sister, Mary. One clause of the will related explicitly to his wish to endow two bells at All Saints church :

I give and bequeath the sum of one hundred and seventy-five pounds to my said Trustees upon trust that they shall as soon as conveniently after my decease communicate with the Vicar and churchwardens of All Saints Gosforth and offer to provide and install two additional Bells … 

Robert’s father ensured that his wish was met. Two bells were dedicated to his memory by Bishop Wild on 3 October 1920.

The Peel of Bells

Extract from the Annual Report of Durham and Newcastle Association of Change Ringers, 1920,

Extract from the Annual Report of Durham and Newcastle Association of Change Ringers, 1920, reporting on presentation of the bells to All Saints Parish Church, Gosforth.

Robert Falconer is remembered on the Thiepval War Memorial. His full-service record can be accessed at The National Archives, Kew, London. The record provides a full account of Robert’s service from the date that he signed up until his death. Today bell practice in All Saints Parish Church takes place on a Monday evening. Ringing for services takes place on Sundays when the peel of bells ring out over the Gosforth community.


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